Pretty desk top with laptop, purple hyacinth, blank journal and purple pen.

No matter what anyone tries to tell you, starting an online shop is hard work.  There’s just so much to do to get up and running.

You need to decide what you want to sell, where or how you are going to get your product and then create a place to showcase your products to buyers.

If that’s not enough, now you need to find customers.  And from much experience, I can tell you, they don’t just show up.  No matter how hard you wish on the first star you saw.

When I opened my online shops, my sales started off surprisingly strong.  I had announced our opening to friends and many of them visited in the first week to make a purchase.

Once this initial flood of traffic died down, though, I sat there wondering how to keep the momentum going.  My research told me that marketing is supposed to be an 80/20 split of your time.  You need to spend 80% of your time sharing your work and building customer relationships.  The other 20% of your time should be spend creating and sourcing your product.

When figuring out how to spend my time each week, I calculated 80% and then spent that amount on marketing.  Well, sort of.  The truth was I had no idea how to spend 80% of my time marketing. That’s a lot of time.  And I liked designing.

So, after I’d get bored with trying to think about ways to market my business, I usually returned to just making new designs.  It was my happy place.

The thing that I soon discovered was no matter how many different designs I had, my audience only saw them when I spent time marketing.  

Building a business is like a marathon. You need to work every day to create a place where your customers want to gather, share your products and become a part of what you do. This process is called marketing and comes in many different forms.

An effective marketing strategy includes both large and small tasks.  Any time you communicate positively with a customer, you’re marketing your brand.  When you write a blog post integrating one of your newest products, you’re marketing your new idea.

All of these tasks increase your sphere of influence and let you reach more people – aka potential customers.  Remember that to make a million, you need to help a million.

And here’s another marketing term to think about.  Have you heard of the Rule of 7?  It still exists in marketing today (although, I’ve heard this number could be much higher).  The Rule of 7 states that prospective customers need to see your offer at least 7 times before they take notice.  7 times.  That’s a lot of times to “touch” someone before they even bother to look up.

How you choose to spend your marketing time helps you reach these customers.  Over and over again.  No matter the size of your business or how busy you are, you need to create an effective marketing strategy that you stick to from day one.

“Stick to” is key here.  I can’t tell you the number of marketing plans that I wrote when I started my business.  They were pretty good too.  These plans included hundreds of different ways to market my business.

They also gathered a lot of dust.  I’d look at my beautiful marketing plan and get so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t even attempt the first action item. Kind of sad, really.  And not very effective.

A marketing strategy is considered effective when the marketing actions benefit your business.  If they are only written on paper, they aren’t having a very positive impact.  The reality is that your marketing strategy is only as effective as the person implementing it.

After years of practice, I’ve finally learned how to create an effective marketing strategy that I actually use.  No longer am I writing hundreds of ideas down to market my business and not working on any of them.  Instead, I focus on the most efficient marketing techniques for my business and work on them a little bit every day.  Over time, these marketing methods have grown my online shop and developed strong relationships with my customers.

There are simple steps that you can take to create your own effective marketing strategy.  Your new marketing plan will be one that can fit in the time you have and grow your shop faster.

I have created a set of printables to help write your effective marketing strategy.  You can receive your own set for free by joining our mailing list.

These printables are part of our new FREE First Steps to Marketing Course.  In this amazing new class, I share the best and more effective ways to spend your marketing time.  I also walk students through creating their own effective marketing strategies that fit into the time they have. 

Writing your Marketing Goals

Your marketing goals are the areas you want to focus your business marketing on.   

There are lots of different things you might want to work on with your marketing.  With so many different directions that you can go, many business owners feel overwhelmed.  A lot times, you’ll choose not to market at all since you can’t find your marketing focus.  

When thinking about your marketing goals, remember to choose only a few at a time.  I like to think of marketing goals in quarters.  There are four quarters in a year – hence, four goals.

You can organize your time to work on one goal at a time. Or you can take small steps towards each goal during the quarter with the plan to accomplish the entire goal by the end of the year.

When writing your goal, use clear and specific language.  It’s important that you know exactly what you want your goal to accomplish. 

It isn’t enough to simply write a goal that says “increase sales”. 

Which sales platform do you want to increase sales on (if you have different sales platforms)? 

How much do you want the increase to be? 

How much time should it take?

By having specifics on what “increase sales” means, it will be easier to accomplish your goal.

How will you know when you’ve accomplished your goal? 

After you’ve written your goals, you need to figure out how you will measure them.  Think about ways you’ll know that you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do.  

Then, write down the steps to get you there.

Think about what actions you will take weekly to accomplish your goal. 

What tasks do you need to do to get to the finish line? 

These are the things that will eventually be put in your weekly marketing plan.

I know what some of you are thinking.  But, I’m not good at any parts of marketing. 

Yeah, I’ve heard that from a lot of people.  Marketing is actually not that hard.  It’s just something that’s easy to put aside and ignore.  I get it.  I avoided marketing my stationery shop for years.

The thing is that you can’t ignore it any more.  To grow or even establish a business, you must market it.  Or no one will ever know about it. 

So, if you don’t currently market at all (although, I bet there’s at least one thing you do a week to market your business even if it’s just tell your friends about it), now’s the time to start

If while writing your goals you feel overwhelmed, just think about writing one goal – not four.  Choose one goal that you can get started on today.  Write that goal out and spend your marketing time working on it.

Once you get that goal under way, you will gain the confidence to try another goal.  And another.  And another.  Eventually, marketing your business will become a habit, not a struggle.  

Create your Annual Marketing Calendar

Before you can write weekly marketing goals, you need to create an annual marketing calendar.  This yearly calendar gives you an overview of the content to create for your audience and how it connects to your products.

For my stationery shop’s annual marketing calendar, I focus on the different themes and holidays to highlight each month.  With these ideas in mind, I know which content and products to market each week.  

For example, I might promote our Valentine’s Day printables in February for Valentine’s Day.  I could create a blog post with a free printable for Read Across America Day in March and share content about getting your child into reading.

Whatever product you’re selling, a yearly marketing calendar helps you know what promotions to focus on and when.  It helps you get started when you aren’t sure where to begin.  

For your annual marketing calendar, start by writing down themes and holidays that relate to your products.  These can include major holidays and themes, such as Valentine’s Day or love.  You can also include the not so known celebrations such as Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. 

When you’re planning your weekly marketing content, be sure to refer to this annual marketing plan.  It will provide ideas to work into your marketing, help you identify the products that you wish to promote during a specific month and give you an outline on the kinds of content you can create.

Writing your Weekly Marketing Plan

Now, comes the fun part – writing your weekly marketing plan.

This is when you decide how to spend your marketing time each week.  You get choose marketing tasks that get you closer to your marketing goals, promote your products, help you make sales AND fit into the amount of time you actually have.  I told you, it’s really fun.

Do you remember the 80/20 time split that I mentioned in the beginning?  As a general rule, to grow a successful business your marketing time should take 80% of your work time each week.  

To write your weekly marketing plan, start by figuring out the total time you plan to work on your business during that week.  Since it’s your own business and you have a family at home, the amount of time you have can vary immensely.  One week you might find a full 40 hours to work and the next only 10 hours because of family commitments. 

No matter how much time you have, IT’S OKAY.  You just need to be realistic so you don’t overschedule your tasks.  This results in feeling overwhelmed and getting nothing done.

It’s also important to recognize that the amount of time you have will continuously change.  No two weeks look alike and that isn’t any different with your business.  The purpose of this marketing strategy is to adjust the time spent on marketing when necessary.  If you’re realistic with the amount of time you have each week, you’re more likely to find at least some time to market your business. 

When I started focusing on marketing Katarina’s Paperie, I had a weekly marketing plan.  It was beautifully written with over 30 tasks to work on.  And I expected myself to complete each of them.

Some weeks were pretty rocky with a newborn at home.  I would get really down on myself when I couldn’t spend any time on my business.  My marketing plan would be tossed aside because I didn’t have time and, after awhile, I ended up with no marketing.

The goal of this Weekly Marketing Plan is to create a fluid strategy that rolls with your business and family needs.  You can adjust it to fit the time that you do have.  This way you’re always working on marketing.  At least just a little bit.

To fill out the plan, you need to start by deciding how much time you have to work in the week to come. 

Do you have a lot of time or a little? 

Write this down as your total work hours. 

Be honest with yourself.  Don’t say you have a ton of time to work when you only have a little.  You’ll only end up disappointed in the end.

Of these total hours, calculate 80% of them.  This is the amount of hours you have to spend on marketing that week.   Write that down next to Total Marketing Time.

Now, you need to figure out what you are going to focus on for the week. 

What marketing tasks will get you closer to your goal this week? 

What will be the best marketing activities for the time you have?

Some of you may be thinking – I have no idea.  That’s completely normal if you don’t write marketing strategies often. 

If you aren’t sure where to begin, go back to your annual marketing goals and use those steps as your guide. 

For example, if you’re growing your mailing list and need to create an opt-in, you might choose to spend a lot of time making it this week.  Under Focus, you could write “mailing list – opt-in creation”. 

Other focuses might include creating pins, posting content on social media and writing blog posts.  Just make sure you select focuses that will get you closer to your marketing goals.

After you figure out your Focus, you need to allot a certain amount of time to it.  This amount of time goes under the Time section of the chart. 

If you’re a visual learner, I’ve also included a space that you can create a pie chart.  Draw in the different sections based on the percentage of time you will devote to those marketing activities that week.  Then, you can keep track of how much time you are spending in each area.

To keep your marketing tasks organized, assign each Focus a color.  Highlight the Focus in this color.  Then, color in the coordinating piece of the pie chart. 

Once you know what you want to work on and how much time each task should take, you need to divide your tasks throughout your week. 

Here’s how a sample week of working on a mailing list opt-in might look.

The tasks you hope to complete for this opt-in goal include:

  • Research different kinds of opt-in options and the best ones for my niche
  • Choose the type of opt-in I want to make
  • Brainstorm ideas to include in the opt-in

Now, you need to put one task on each day of the week that you plan to work.  To stay organized, you can color the circle the same color as your focus. 

Here’s what this might look like.

By the time you’re done adding the tasks, you should have at least one or two things per a day to work on. 

Won’t this take a lot of time?

Yes, putting together a marketing strategy does take time.  But, running your business in general takes time.  It’s kind of what comes with being your own boss.  Don’t let the Interweb fool you into thinking otherwise.

The thing is that without effective marketing, you won’t have a business to run.  By taking a little extra time at the beginning of the week to plan my marketing means that I know what to do each day.  There’s never any question on what marketing task to work on next and how much time to spend on it. 

Having an effective marketing plan means that I no longer sit there during my designated marketing times wondering what to do. 

I haven’t abandoned my business marketing again either.  Since creating this marketing strategy, I’ve stuck to it.  Because of these new routines, my time is used more effectively.  I actually accomplish my goals and my business continues to grow.

So yes, to create an effective marketing plan for your business does take time.  But, it’s worth the investment.  I can’t say that about all business activities. 

Final Thoughts…

Marketing is one of the most important things you can do each week to grow your business.   Say that a couple of times over again.

But figuring out effective ways to market your business isn’t always easy.

Start with your marketing goal and figure out what tasks will get you to the finish line.  Then, use your marketing plan to schedule those tasks.

No matter how busy your business gets, spend at least a little time marketing it every day.  You’ll be surprised how fast you can grow using the little bit every day strategy.

2 Comments on How to Create an Effective Marketing Strategy that Grows your Online Shop

  1. So many great points brought up in this article! Thanks for sharing it all. The one thing that stuck with me is “how will you measure your goals” because yes, we can make goals all day long but if we don’t have a way to measure them and determine if we are making progress then it doesn’t matter!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. Figuring how to measure is so important, but tricky too. I always want to write down “increase traffic” or “make X sales”, but I never know what it means or my plan for getting there. More specific goals also helps me be more productive. Progress can seem so slow sometimes. I just like to know that I’m making some – especially when I look back over the entire year. Thanks for visiting.

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